RPGaDay: Gaming advice

Welcome to the last day of RPGaDay, hosted by BrigadeCon, where we answer: What is the best piece of advice you were ever given for your game of choice?

RPGaDay 2016

I read one piece of advice early in the hobby which I’ve applied to most of my games. I found this advice  in the first rpg system I ever owned: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness by Erick Wujcik.

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In the book, they describe how the GM role is like being a director for a movie with a significant change. You have an unlimited budget. You want Leslie Jones and Bruce Lee to show up in your game then bingo, you have them. You want a special effect of an immense volcano which will spew out armies of demons? You describe that in your game. You want the antagonists to steal a five-story bank vault using a dragon? You ask yourself, how many dragons will you need and then when the protagonists are in the bank vault for their own heist, you start playing with their sense of gravity.

Knowing that my budget was unlimited, I unleashed some far fetched and strange things in my game. When I babysat kids at as teen, I ran TMNT and 2 kids were playing mutant poodle body builders. I recall a scene where the army was trying to capture then and tanks were sent. The mutant poodles jumped on those tanks and started punching holes and dents. In a movie, this could prove expensive but not in a rpg. I love that aspect of rpg where you can let your imagination go wild.

As a side note, I met Kevin Eastman this year and got him to sign my TMNT & Other Strangeness book. I have many strong feelings with that game as it formed my core of GMing. I was doing it while going to babysit. If you are considering babysitting, I highly recommend you bring a game and offer to run it for the kids. You can practice your craft. Also, kids can have fun and you’ll probably get repeat business. I did as kids wanted to tell more stories with their characters.

What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten or given for any game? How do you apply it for other games?

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RPGaDay: Successful campaign

Welcome to day 13 of RPGaDay which is all about those  campaigns.

RPGaDay is hosted by BrigadeCon this year.

RPGaDay 2016

The question is: What makes a successful campaign?

I’ve played in several campaign in my life. I plan to play more as they are fun to create an ongoing shared story with recurring protagonists and antagonists. There are several components of a successful campaign.

First, you have to be flexible to the demands of the group. Each party is a microcosm of desires, needs, personalities, and availability. What worked for one group will not work for another. You have to be willing to adapt your style to fit that group and evolve as the game develops.

Second, play with friends. As Brenda said to me when I asked her the question “Don’t play with jerks!” You need a good chemistry between members of the group. If there’s constant friction with a member of the group and others then suggest to them that they are not a good fit with this group. If too many members of the group have friction, you’ll see the group disintegrate. When you have a good group of friends, folks will wish to come play and have an enjoyable experience.

Third, be communicative with the group. Ask members of the group which stories they wish to continue seeing and finish. Figure out which stories spark their interest and focus on that while introducing sub-plots which might or might not lead somewhere. Also be willing to bring it to a conclusion when the group has run out of interesting plots to explore.

One book which I’ve read which does a great job with campaigns is Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management by Phil Vecchione & Walt Ciechanowski. They go through the life of a campaign from the start to the end.

What are your tricks for a successful campaign? What is your favourite campaign so far?

My first GenCon: Friday

I had a busy day on Friday. I started with two seminars, followed by an Ashes of Athas game and the live Tome Show recording and finished by a Five Year Mission concert.

The hosts of the morning seminars were: Wolfgang Baur, Christina Stiles, Ben McFarland and other freelancer who I missed his name (Sorry!). The first seminar was RPG Freelancing 101. I have a small desire to do some rpg freelancing. It is one reason I started this blog to improve my writing and determine how productive I can be. They mentioned that two important steps is to be assertive & confident followed by delivering. I need to work on being assertive and confident. They suggest starting small first and then you’ll get larger projects. It makes perfect sense because large project are lots of investment for a publisher to make on a new freelancer. I do not have a problem with being possessive of my ideas as I love to share my ideas. A pitch to a publisher needs to be short, sold and show the exciting parts. If it’s an adventure then speak of the action not the background. If there’s a secret or mystery then you reveal the mystery to the publisher. You need to play the RPGs that you wish to write for. If you get a project then you don’t drastically destroy or change a part of the setting unless instructed to. You should push your boundaries but respect the limits imposed by the publisher like word count and setting limits. A new freelancer has lots of ability to work on what they want but as you raise up in the freelancer pyramid then you get less choice to what you wish to work on but higher profile projects.

The second seminar was Creating and Improving Your Homebrew RPG Setting. They started with two viewpoints: write only what your players will interact with and write everything because it is fun. They talked more about it and I gathered the general idea is to focus on your immediate needs but when you have time, write what you enjoy. They mentioned to have an overall theme to unite your campaign. I found it a useful reminder of my theme “resurgence of old empires”. They said the goals of the players are important. Please note that player goals can be different from the goals of their character. Ex: A player might want a tragic but heroic sacrifice but the character wishes to live. A good GM notices this simple conflict and provides opportunities in the setting.
They talked about mysteries in your setting. You don’t need to reveal everything to your players or even yourself. Always keep a few mysteries in the setting. Something for the players to wonder and attempt to discover. Mysteries entice the players but the reveal might end it. Don’t pull away the full curtain.
The audience asked about publishing and self-publishing the setting. They said self-publishing is a beast best tackled in its own seminar. They advised to test if there is an audience for your setting through various distributions (i.e. blog, podcast, etc.). You pitch small sections of the campaign to your audience or publishers rather than the whole campaign. A publisher will not have time to read a 500 page setting bible from unpublished individual.
Finally, they advised to rip off fictional characters or real life characters for your homebrew setting. Modify the character for your homebrew setting but use the inspiration.

In the afternoon, I had a fun Ashes of Athas game. It was my first Ashes of Athas game and it was fun. The DM, Marcy-Alice, was awesome. She enjoyed the story and the interactions. The combat slowed things down and we had to rush to finish it since we went 30 minutes over the time slot. I had fun play Sala, my halfling druid who enjoys transforming into beasts. I learned he is a protector of all life which put him into conflict with certain members of the party.The half-giants in the group lost their tribe to Urikite soldiers. They blamed the Sorcerer-King Hamanu and all his soldiers. Sala believes those Urikite were just following orders and they shouldn’t be killed just for following orders. When he saw the ant lion attacking the Urikite soldiers, he leaped to rescue them. When the half-giants prevents the other Urikite soldiers to escape, Sala scowled at them. We didn’t focus on killing all enemies. Mary-Alice made the goal of the encounters clear and we focused on that. I love organized play events where the goals are clear. A combat encounter doesn’t need to end with one side being destroyed.

In the evening, I participated in the live recording of the Tome Show Episode 201. The hosts were Jeff Greiner and Tracy Hurley. Their guest was Robin D. Laws, acclaimed game designer. I was in the audience. It was great to hear the advice that Robin provided to add story in the D&D game. I asked him for improvisation tips in D&D 4th edition. He provides useful advise that you should listen when the episode gets published.

Our night event was a concert by the Star Trek inspired band, Five Year Mission. Their goal is to create a song based on every single episode of the original Star Trek. They are four song writers and a drummer. The song writers switched instruments and sung the song they wrote.

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The drummer got to wear a wonderful fake mustache for a song.

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We all know who got the better deal out of this. I felt they should have ended with their song “Shore Leave” but it makes a great play on words but we got a great fight scene between Mike Rittenhouse and a Gorn. I uploaded a video of the epic combat.
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I hope they do international tours and come up north to Ottawa.